Barganic Alert: Free Herbal Webinar with Aviva Romm, M.D.

Seriously, no bargain beats free, and this is a particularly fantastic freebie if you ask me.

I just posted a video the other day on how to make medicinal herbal tinctures, but I am not an M.D. and am in no position to advise you or your family in using any particular herbal remedies. Enter the great news, Aviva Romm is a Yale-trained M.D. specializing in integrative medicine for women and children. In addition to being a midwife and an herbalist, she is well-versed and well-published in supporting health naturally, having authored seven published books including “Naturally Healthy Babies and Children: A Commonsense Guide to Herbal Remedies, Nutrition, and Health,” “Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide: How to Make Safe, Sensible Decisions about the Risks, Benefits, and Alternatives,” and “The Natural Pregnancy Book, Third Edition: Your Complete Guide to a Safe, Organic Pregnancy and Childbirth with Herbs, Nutrition, and Other Holistic Choices” among others.

On Thursday April 30th at 5:30pm PST, 8:30pm EST Learning Herbs will be hosting a free webinar entitled “Your Herbal Comfort Zone: 9 Simple & Safe Remedies for Kids” with Dr. Aviva Romm. The webinar will cover topics such as Dr. Romm’s top nine favorites herbs for children’s health, how to creatively use each of these herbs with your children, and how to increase your confidence in using safe and simple herbal remedies with your children.

The webinar is free but space is limited. To register click here. I’ve signed up, now I just have to get the kids on board with cooperating at bedtime so that I can tune in on time. Hmmmm, I wonder if there are any herbs to help with that.

Make sure that you don’t miss out on any Barganic Alerts, these babies tend to be time-limited. Subscribe to to always be the first to know!

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Making Herbal Tinctures from Fresh Herbs (Video Tutorial)

Time to Tincture!

Sorry that I’ve been MIA. I was actually off on a fun adventure. I’ll tell you more about that in the days ahead. In the meantime, I’ve been spending lots of time as of late working with and learning about herbs and their medicinal properties. One thing that I’ve been doing is using herbs to make tinctures, which are essentially the beneficial compounds of the plant extracted into alcohol and then dosed with a dropper. You can see a video of the process here:

For those looking for the Cliff’s Notes version, you chop up your plant material into small, uniform pieces and put it in a glass jar with high proof alcohol in a quantity that is double in volume relative to the weight of your plant matter. You shake it up at least once a day, and after a period of time (7-10 days or 6-8 weeks depending on who you’re asking) you strain out the liquid from the plant material, squeezing out those last precious drops. Then you just bottle and label your new tincture. Voila!

Along the way in the video, I mention some helpful resources. The first is to help acquaint you with different herbs and gives some guidance as to the strength of alcohol needed to extract all of the plants’ goodness into your tincture. Some plant compounds can be extracted by lower proof alcohol whereas others need the heavy duty stuff. Mountain Rose Herbs gives the general guideline of using lower proof alcohol for high-moisture herbs and high proof for more resinous herbs and gums. I use high proof for everything during the extraction phase to hedge my bets. This also gives me the option of diluting with distilled water later if I want a less potent extract.

If you are looking for bottles for storing your herbs, you can order smaller amber or blue glass dropper bottles of various sizes from many retailers. I also purchase screw top larger bottles to use as the “stock” bottles to store my tincture and then refill the smaller dropper dosing bottles from them. I have ordered bottles from Frontier Co-op, Mountain Rose Herbs, and Amazon among other places.

As mentioned in the video, you can probably find high proof alcohol at your local liquor store (or at least, I did). If you want a larger array of options, wish to produce a grain-free or organic product, or anticipate needing very large quantities of alcohol, Alchemical Solutions is a great option. Shipping costs can be very high however.

If you are intrigued by the idea of making herbal tinctures, but don’t know where to begin in terms of which herbs to use for what, there are some accessible herbal guides and recipe books that may help you become more confident working with herbs. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs book, Michael Moore’s books such as Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, or Jesse Wolf Hardin’s books such as A Treasury of Herbal Wisdom: Vital Knowledge & Essential Skills among many others are great for helping you get better acquainted with the use of herbs to support healing. So are you ready to get started?

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Barganic Alert: Organic Authority Spring Renewal Goodie Box Goes on Sale on Monday

Have you had a chance to check out the Crunchy Parent list of crunchy-friendly subscription boxes? If you have, you may be familiar with Organic Authority. Although not a typical re-billing subscription, they offer quarterly single-purchase boxes curated around a theme and chock full of eco-friendly, non-toxic, and organic products for beauty, wellness, home, garden, kitchen, and food.

photo credit: Organic Authority

Organic Authority’s “Spring Renewal” Goodie Box will be available as a limited edition of only 50 boxes starting Monday. Boxes cost $129 and include shipping. Content value is $480. Organic Authority has revealed most of the box contents, with remaining items to be revealed tomorrow. Box sales go live on Monday, April 13th, 2015 at 8 o’clock am Pacific Time.

Products already revealed include:

The Herbal Face Food (2 oz.) antioxidant-packed, raw, serum. $100 value
B True Beauty’s All Natural Eyelash Enhancer made with organic ingredients to nourish and enhance lashes. $59 value
The Magic Pads (50 pads) to exfoliate, clarify, and fight aging. $19.95 value
Aunt Fannie’s Fly Punch fruit fly kits (2 kits) Aunt Fannie’s non-toxic formula will tackle pesky fruit flies in your kitchen $21.98 value
Zing Anything’s Original Citrus Zinger water bottle A 28 oz. BPA/Halogen/EA and Phthalates free water bottle with built-in citrus press to add a zing to your water. $15.99 value
Handigger’s Trowel ergonomically designed for wrist relief while gardening $26.99 value
Ground 2 Table’s Full Collection of Organic Spice Blends (12 total) Sample all twelve organic spice blends. $23.88 value (currently on sale for $9.99 value through manufacturer website)
Balanced Guru’s Style Me: Roots to Ends Hair Oil (1 oz.) Conscientiously formulated with wholesome ingredients and aromatic essential oils, Balanced Guru’s products are cruelty-free, sustainable, and free of synthetic chemicals and artificial scents. A safe, effective and luscious way to promote healthy hair and protect against damage. $18.99 value
ReLeaf’s Leaf Scoops to lend ease to lawn and leaf care. $34.45 value (currently selling for $23.48 through Amazon)
NeoCell’s Biotin Bursts™ Brazilian Acai Berry soft chews+ $2 Coupon to nourish hair and skin. $17.99 value
healthy hoohoo’s Feminine Foaming Cleanser ultra-mild, pH balanced, glycerin-free, fragrance-free, gluten-free, vegan and contain no harsh chemicals (like parabens, alcohol, sulfates or dyes). $14.75 value
Garden of Life’s Grain-Free Organic Plant Protein in Smooth Chocolate (9oz) Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified plant protein supplement, uniquely formulated to have superior taste and texture, ideal for anyone looking for a clean protein supplement that is free of common allergens such as gluten, grains, dairy and soy. $29.95 value

The remaining items will be unveiled tomorrow (judging by the photo another garden tool and some chocolate goodies are among the treats yet to be revealed). The 50 boxes are sure to sell out fast, starting Monday at 8:00am Pacific Time. Are you grabbing one?

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TBT: Wet Felted Wool Ball Tutorial with Needle Felting Option (video)

Wet and Needle Felted Wool Balls

I am keeping my fingers crossed that in time we will be able to recover some of the more frequently searched for and referenced posts from the blog in its first version before we lost all of the content from the site (more about that here). It is amazing to me, and very gratifying, that even through I had stopped posting new content to the blog almost seven years ago and it had disappeared from the interwebs completely for five years, people still find their way to the site through old links from other blogs. It seems inhospitable to have nothing to greet them about their topic of interest other than an error message. Fortunately I was at times a contentious blogger, saving my posts as actual files rather than typing the content directly into my hosting site. We’ve saved the hard drive from the computer that I used at the time, so there is still the possibility of finding some or many of my old posts and revisiting them here.

In honor of Throwback Thursday, I’m going to attempt to capture the essence of a video tutorial post that I had made in 2008, back when I posted to the blog anonymously and used pseudonyms for the children and didn’t show my face in videos (I’ve since gotten over all of that). The first video in the two-part tutorial series shows a very accessible way to craft a wet-felted wool ball using nothing more than your hands, wool batting, dish soap, and water (which means that you probably have at least three of the required ingredients already!). These wool balls can be made in any size needed and are great for gentle indoor play for children of all ages (including babies provided that they have direct supervision to ensure that they don’t gum off any loose wool and choke on a hairball). The balls can also be used as cat toys and as wool dryer balls to cut down on drying time and eliminate the need for artificial fabric softeners.

Part Two of the series shows you that by adding a dry felting needle and some imagination to your supply list, the sky is the limit for the complexity and types of designs that you can create. The picture above shows some of the balls that I made years ago, and that my children and their friends have played with for hours and hours.

For those looking for supplies, I have always been happy with the felting needles and colored wool batting that I have purchased from Peace Fleece. I especially like their batting bundles because they give me great color variety and it would take me a long time to go through a full pound of a single-colored wool. For the natural colored wool batting used for the core of the ball, my go-to supplier has historically been West Earl Woolen Mill (their website is as bare bones as one can get, but call them for pricing and ordering information). As mentioned in the video, this type of undyed wool is incredibly useful in natural crafting for needle felting and wet felting, constructing Waldorf style dolls, stuffing soft toys, and more. Of course ebay, Etsy, and Amazon can all be great resources for wool batting, roving, and other felting supplies. I have even noticed that my local chain-store craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric carry a limited selection of needle felting tools, kits, and supplies, wool batting, and roving as well if you prefer to shop locally or just can’t wait for craft supplies to arrive by mail. In addition, you may be lucky enough to have a local fiber, craft, or Waldorf School store nearby that might stock the necessary materials or supplies. As an additional tip, I personally find it easier to wet felt with somewhat coarser wool batting versus finer wool roving, but your experience may differ.

If you try out the process and have any questions, please post in the comments. I’d also love to learn about any wet felting tips or resources that you have to share as well as pictures of your finished projects. Please remember to subscribe to and to the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel for more craft tutorials, cooking demos, “crunchy” subscription unboxings, and lots more.

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Sneak Peek for the May BabeBoxx Subscription Box

BabeBoxx is a recently launched monthly cosmetic and skincare subscription box service. BabeBoxx emphasizes products that are natural, organic, and low in toxins, placing a premium on handmade items.

BabeBoxx has just released a sneak peek for their May box:

photo credit: Old Orchard. Reprinted with permission from

All subscribers will receive one product from the Old Orchard skin care collection. The product will be either their beauty oil, Baobab & Rosehip lotion bar, or their lip treatment. It is unknown whether the items will be full or sample sized, but it is known that they will be 100% natural and contain many organic ingredients as well.

Are you signing up for the May box? Which Old Orchard product are you hoping to receive? Check out the Crunchy Parent list of crunchy-friendly subscription boxes for more great healthy, eco-friendly, crunchy subscription box options.

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Barganic Alert: It’s a Great Time to Stock up on Gluten Free and Other Food Allergy-Friendly Foods

A tip for anyone who buys gluten free foods and lives in or around most any large metropolitan area. The Passover holiday is upon us and this (mostly) grain free holiday, with all of its associated specialty foods can be a real boon for people who adhere to, or dabble in, a gluten free diet. That said, some products will be made with specially prepared wheat flour suitable for the holiday, so still be sure to check labels to ensure that the product is really free from grains.

We’ve been stocking up on gluten free matzoh style squares and crackers that we eat throughout the year, and that we find taste better than many other gluten free cracker options. Potato starch is another gluten free pantry staple in that we grab around Passover, as is gluten free matzo meal or gluten free panko crumbs, both of which make great breadcrumb substitutes. The traditional coconut macaroon cookies that abound in every flavor under the sun are a good GF cookie option, and gluten free Passover cakes, cookies, baking mixes, and more can be found on the shelves at any store with a respectable Passover section for the holiday.

In addition, because kosher dietary laws prohibit the mixing of milk and meat, many Passover foods are also marked as “pareve” meaning that they are free from any dairy or meat ingredients. Foods not marked pareve may also be free from dairy, but the pareve on the label is a sure-fire way to know that the product is dairy free too. Lastly, because corn is a grain and therefore prohibited during the holiday, many foods that often otherwise contain corn syrup or other corn-based ingredients are available in corn-free versions especially for the holiday; great news for those with allergies to corn. As an additional bonus, among the many well-known and established brands making Passover foods, the Manischewitz brand distinguished themselves this past January by becoming the first major Kosher company to have a line of Non-GMO Project Verified products. Although their Non-GMO line does not include their gluten-free products, I hope that it will in the future.

The Passover holiday started this past Friday and runs through sundown Friday of this week (or Saturday depending on who you’re talking to). That means that many grocers are currently running holiday sales now and may be clearing items out with additional sales ahead. Don’t wait too long though, this grain-free holiday comes but once a year.

Make sure that you don’t miss out on any Barganic Alerts, these babies tend to be time-limited. Subscribe to to always be the first to know!

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Reducing Plastic Toy Waste in Landfills

As a general rule, we have avoided plastic toys for out kids. Our primary motivation has been health related, both for our children and for the planet. It is easier to look for toys made from wood, silk, cotton, wool, and other natural materials that will provide hours of safe play and ultimately biodegrade than to worry about the known and unknown ill-effects of PVCs, phthlates, and other hormone disrupters, carcinogens, etc. in plastics. That said, plastic toys are difficult to avoid completely, and unlike toys made of natural materials, plastic toys seem to be more prone to breakage due to an ill-timed footstep or from more complex mechanical workings ceasing to function.

All things being equal, I think that if a toy of any material is simply outgrown and it can still be enjoyed by others, it is best to find it a new home where it will be appreciated and reused. Nevertheless, there will still always be plastic toys that have been broken beyond repair or are otherwise no longer usable. All too often these toys are destined for the trash heap where they may wreak havoc on our planet and its inhabitants for centuries. To address this problem, Tom’s of Maine is currently offering a plastic toy recycling program in partnership with Terracycle.

Throughout Earth Month (the month of April), parents can request to be sent a free toy recycling box to help children gather up all of their plastic toys that have become broken beyond repair or are not good candidates for donating (while supplies last). Once boxes are filled, toys can be sent back with the pre-paid return shipping label to be recycled into useful items such as park benches. See the recycling program link above for a complete listing of eligible toys.

Sounds to me like a great activity to raise consciousness not only about stewardship for our planet, but also to increase awareness about what happens to plastic once it gets tossed in the trash. What do you think, are you signing up for one?

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Barganic Alert: Little PNuts Subscriptions on Sale This Weekend

Little PNuts Subscription Box

Have you had a chance to check out the Crunchy Parent list of crunchy-friendly subscription boxes? If you have, you may be familiar with Little PNuts, a quarterly subscription service specializing in eco-friendly and organic, heirloom quality toys for children ages 0-6 years. Little PNuts emphasizes open-ended toys that will stimulate creative play; no batteries required.

This weekend Little PNuts is offering 10% off of their subscriptions. Just use the code BUNNY.

Make sure that you don’t miss out on any Barganic Alerts, these babies tend to be time-limited. Subscribe to to always be the first to know!

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On Birthdays, the Rainbow Bridge, and Feelings of Inadequacy

Preparing to cross the Rainbow Bridge

Preparing to cross the Rainbow Bridge

As spring begins to threaten the mounds of snow in our neck of the Midwest, so starts birthday season in our household. All three kids turn another year older between the end of February and the beginning on May (and I do too).

When the girls were young they attended Waldorf parent-child and early childhood programs (known as kindergartens in Waldorf schools). It was in that context that I was introduced to the idea of celebrating the anniversary of a child’s birth with a fairytale hybrid version of their birth story. In the Waldorf tradition this is referred to as the Rainbow Bridge story. I have heard many iterations of this story; it’s length and complexity varying to some degree based on the age of the child and the preferences and characteristics of the story teller, but with the key themes remaining the same. As I think back, I have heard at least five different early childhood teachers tell a version of the Rainbow Bridge story to one of my children. Traditionally, the teacher sits in front of the group of classroom children with a small table on which sits a photo of the birthday child and fragrant beeswax candles to mark off the years of his or her life. A long silk in rainbow colors stretches out a path across the floor, at the end of which sits the child’s parents. Siblings are often present as well if they should happen to be available to join in for the story telling. The child is usually dressed in a special angelic outfit and listens to the telling of his or her story, which culminates with the child running across the Rainbow Bridge and into their parents’ arms, signifying the moment of their welcome to Earth and to their family.

six years

six years

This year is different. This past fall we sold the home where Rich and I had moved just months after we married. The home where all of our children were brought to when they were born. The home located within close proximity to the Waldorf school where I first felt a true sense of belonging and community when I was searching for connection to a like-minded group of parents, having felt like a misfit or a novelty at times amongst the parents in park district kiddie classes.

The reasons for the move were many. Too much in our life had shifted; our family had grown and our house had not, our school programming, its administration, and its financial health no longer resembled what it once had when we had started there, and our own finances had been put to the test through multiple medical challenges, extended unemployment, and other unexpected hiccups. We wanted to move closer to family and social support, but this also meant saying a final goodbye to formal Waldorf education for any of our children. I don’t regret the decision, it was overdue to be honest. We were in need of shaking off the bad juju that had seemed to have settled into our life and to make a fresh start.

Things are still up in the air in many aspects of our new chapter, and at times we cannot resist pining away for the old and familiar. That is where I found myself on a recent morning as I drove home from Asher’s birthday celebration at his new preschool class. He had donned a special paper birthday crown in pink, his favorite color. I had come and read a story to the class and had brought some gluten free pretzels to share. The children sang him the Happy Birthday song. It was a nice celebration and he had felt special. As I drove the car though it was nagging at me that this was a very different experience from what I had come to expect for my young children’s school birthdays. What struck me most was that he hadn’t heard his Rainbow Bridge story. He hadn’t run across a path on the floor marked out by a rainbow playsilk and jumped into my arms to celebrate the moment when I first held him; the moment when he was born into our family. I was missing it hard. I started to think about some way that I could recreate the experience for him, casually testing the waters by chatting with him in the backseat as we drove, “Hey Buddy, when your sisters were your age they were told a story about being born to celebrate their birthdays. What do you think about that idea?” After an unexpected discussion about what a birthday might possibly have to do with being born (I forget sometimes that the concept is not intuitive to young children), he seemed intrigued.

We got home and I immediately tried to conjure up some way to recreate the ethereal and magical Waldorf Rainbow Bridge experience, but every thought that I had was instantly met with the reality of our current situation; we do not yet have our own house. We are living with my parents at the moment while we try desperately to find a home for our family, a task that is proving to be a difficult one within the constraints of our family size and budget combined with the much higher home values in our new suburb relative to our old one. In the meantime, all of the play silks, the dress up clothes, the play arch, the toys, the birthday crowns, the beeswax candles, everything lives far away in storage. We live tucked in the spaces available with our necessities stored in bins and boxes. The mommy guilt hit and threatened to take over.

I had a thought, one of Rich’s white t-shirts could stand in for the angelic robe that the children often wore, and maybe I could find a belt or sash or something. For a fleeting moment I considered the plastic fireman’s hat that he had received on a school field trip as a suitable crown substitute. Asher however, was not impressed with my ingenuity.

not feeling it

not feeling it

He didn’t want to wear the shirt or the hat. He didn’t care that his sisters had worn robes or wings or crowns like little birthday angels. His enthusiasm was waning. The moment was slipping away. I stopped. It didn’t need to look like the vision that I had in my head. His birth story was his own unique moment to celebrate. It didn’t need to be anything more than that. I sat down on the couch and pulled him onto my lap and began his Rainbow Bridge story as best as I could remember hearing one be told….

Some time ago up high in the clouds, a little angel laughed and danced and played. The little angel loved to pretend that he was a rescuer, helping out with any troubles way up in the sky. The little angel liked to bounce on the fluffy clouds and look down onto the Earth below. The little angel watched the fish swim in the seas and the birds sing in the skies. One day the little angel peered down to Earth and saw other children as they laughed and played together. Two little girls caught the angel’s attention as the little angel watched them run through the grass, picking flowers together and balancing carefully as they walked across fallen trees in the forest. The little angel heard a woman’s voice call out, “Eva, Alina….” (“That’s my sisters! But where is me?” “Hold on Buddy, we’re not there yet.”)

The little angel turned to some of the bigger angels and said, “I want to go there, to join those girls on Earth,” but the big angels said that it was not yet time. The little angel returned to his play, forgetting about the Earth down below. One day while running through the clouds, the little angel tripped and fell, nearly slipping down through the clouds, but the big angels helped him up and watched over him closely through the autumn, the winter, and into the spring. One day the clouds parted and the little angel could peek below once more. He saw his two girls cuddled up in bed close to a woman with a big, round belly. A man sat nearby reading the girls a story. The little angel asked again, “Can I go to them now?” and the big angels said that it was time. They hugged the little angel close, kissed his cheeks, and sent him down through the clouds across a bridge of rainbows to join his new family. His mother and father held him and gave to him his first ever gift, his name Asher Miles, which means lucky, blessed, and happy because they felt so lucky and blessed to have him come to complete their family, and because they wished for him a happy life.

In his first year Asher grew and discovered so much about the world. He said his first words, and crawled, stood up all on his own, and laughed at his silly sisters.

In Asher’s second year he learned to walk and climb, always curious to see how things worked. He loved to sit on Daddy’s lap when he would make work calls, and even set up his own “office” in the play arch, taking phone calls and working hard on his play computer.

In Asher’s third year he started parent-child class and explored the woods and the classroom. He loved to dig in the sand and see his sisters at school. He flew on an airplane for the first time, visiting his Gram and Gramps in Arizona.

In Asher’s fourth year he learned to ride a tricycle and had so much fun riding around outside. He began a new adventure, moving with his family to a new home, and starting at a new school. Asher made many friends.

Now Asher begins his fifth year, which we know will be filled with more growing, and learning, and discoveries. We love you very much sweet boy, and we are so lucky, blessed, and happy that you chose our family. Happy birthday, my sweet angel.

I knew that the story was not as refined or magical as the ones that his sisters had been told, but it was a moment for me to soak up my son’s five years and consider who he is and who he has grown to be as a part of our family. I am glad that I didn’t get completely stopped by the disconnect between how I wanted things to be and the reality of how things are at the moment. We will never again have the opportunity to celebrate Asher’s five circles around the sun, and I am glad that I took the time to reflect along with him.

If you are interested in other, more classic, examples of the telling of the Rainbow Bridge birthday story in the Waldorf school tradition, here are a few:

The Rainbow Bridge
Waldorf birthday story
Waldorf inspired birthday traditions
Teddy’s birthday story

How has the Rainbow Bridge story been used to celebrate the children in your life? What other birthday traditions are special to your family?

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Dye Eggs Naturally with Fruits, Vegetables, Botanicals (and Children)

Naturally Dye Eggs with Fruits, Vegetables, and Botanicals

Am I the only one struggling with the idea that Passover and Easter are almost here? Maybe it’s because living in the Midwest the weather never quite feels like it has made a commitment to spring until June rolls around, and by then it’s really too late. Regardless of my feelings, the calendar cannot be denied. Spring, and all of its many holidays are upon us, bringing with them the shared symbol of an egg to celebrate rebirth and renewal.

For as long as I can remember, my mother has pinched a sprig or two of the parsley otherwise earmarked for the Passover meal and wrapped it around an egg, securing it with scrap of pantyhose, and hard boiling it in a pot full of onion skins to create the extra special symbol to sit in a position of honor on the Seder Plate. The result has always been a deep russet colored egg with a perfectly outlined parsley leaf, serving as an example of effective use of negative space. I have long appreciated the simple beauty of this symbol of spring; the image of fresh green growth superimposed on an egg, the ultimate representation of new beginnings.

This year as my mother was delegating holiday preparation tasks, she asked if I would like to take responsibility for the egg for the Seder Plate. I was thrilled to have this gentle nudge to explore the world of egg dyeing using natural dyes such as vegetables, fruits, and spices. I also wanted to see how else I could incorporate new botanicals in the egg imprinting process. Additionally, it seemed like a great way to get the children involved in the holiday preparation as well as provide opportunities for a multitude of discoveries about nature, seasons, color mixing, patterns, and more. I read, researched, consulted with my mother, and then pretty much did my own thing which is how I most often like to learn and create.

The first step was taking the kids on a walk in the yard. The children next door joined in too so we had six eager boys and girls looking for “fresh green things with interesting shapes.” We talked about why the plants needed to be green versus brown (so that they would bend to the shape of the eggs and not crumble); why rocks or sticks would not work for this project; and we gathered some found objects just to fill up the spaces in our empty pockets because that’s what happens when we look around outside. We also had a discussion about edible versus non-edible plants and decided that since we wanted to be able to eat the eggs in the end that it would be best to only use plants that we knew were safe to consume.

Searching for new leaves to imprint on our eggs

Searching for new leaves to imprint on our eggs

Next up in the process I raided the refrigerator. I wanted to have a whole rainbow of colors because I’m a “more is more” kind of person by nature (I’m working on that). I also didn’t want to have to go to the store because once I get excited about a project, I like to dive right in. I settled for using beets for reddish/pink, the yellow onion skins for a russet color, turmeric for yellow, chlorella for green, and a mix of frozen blackberries and grapes for purple. I then acknowledged that I really wanted blue too so I picked up a purple cabbage at the grocery store anyway. As long as I was there I grabbed some additional fresh herbs (sage, thyme, dill, and rosemary) that I thought might make pretty impressions on the eggs.

I diligently chopped up the produce as needed and put 2-3 cups of fruit or veggie matter in each pot along with a quart of water. For the chlorella and the turmeric, I went with 2 tablespoons per quart of water. I then brought the pots to a boil and lowered the flame, allowing each pot to simmer covered.

Berries/grapes, turmeric, and chlorella

Berries/grapes, turmeric, and chlorella

I had read a host of differing methods for the dye preparation and dyeing process. Some people hard boiled their eggs in the pot along with the coloring agent, but others suggested that such a method would not allow the colors to properly develop before the egg became horribly overcooked. Some methods instructed the dye to simmer for 30 minutes to an hour or more to allow the color to properly deepen, although others said to cook until the desired shade was reached. I read instructions to add several tablespoons of vinegar to each pot at the start when preparing their dye, whereas some added the vinegar once the dye had cooled or even brushed the vinegar directly onto the egg shell before dyeing. I decided to hard boil my eggs in water first and allow to cool in the fridge. Then, I prepared my dye to a deep dark shade, checking the colors with the kids to decide when we thought the color was ready.

Alina and Asher inspect the dye colors as they develop.

Alina and Asher inspect the dye colors as they develop.

When the dye was done, I strained the liquid dye into glass jars, discarding the solid material. I stored the covered glass jars in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I added the vinegar to the dye just before dyeing each egg.

We opted to use both brown and white eggs to add another element of mystery and discovery to the process (i.e., how would the same dye look on differently colored eggs?). Asher enjoyed making patterns with the eggs as we prepared to dye them.

brown, white, brown, white, brown, white

brown, white, brown, white, brown, white

Each child worked with varying levels of assistance to consider how they wanted to decorate their eggs and apply the herbs. We found that dabbing a small amount of coconut oil onto the back of the leaves helped us adhere them more securely to the cold eggs. Then I carefully wrapped each egg in a small bit of old, clean pantyhose and tied it gently to secure, a process that I found moderately challenging without disrupting our plant placement.

wrapped eggs awaiting their dye baths

wrapped eggs awaiting their dye baths

I will add here that if at all possible I would recommend calling each child over to this activity on his or her own to decorate eggs and then return to their play or activities when the next child takes a turn. As it was, trying to manage the enthusiasm, desires, and need for assistance of three children at once at this point in the process resulted in exactly three out of my three children bursting into tears before all was said and done, which was not part of the original plan, and of which I took no photos.

Once our eggs were ready, we placed them into glass jars of our dyes, debating about the colors that the eggs would ultimately turn (would the deep wine-colored beet dye result in darker or lighter eggs than the ruby red grape/berry dye? Would the purple/pink cabbage dye really turn the eggs blue as promised?). I tucked the jars in the fridge and checked on the eggs after several hours, opting to leave them in for longer. Many I left in the dye bath overnight and well into the next day.

out of the dye jars and set to dry

Out of the dye jars and set to dry

Our results were a mixed bag. We all had our favorite shapes and colors and discussed what we would do differently next time. We found that the chlorella was a bust, not dyeing the eggs at all. The turmeric didn’t work much better for us, adding only the palest of yellows to our white egg. We decided to relocate it to the blue jar and overdye it. We were quite shocked to see the red grape/berry dye turn the egg a deep purple, and we loved every shade of blue that the purple cabbage dye created. We all preferred the white eggs as our canvas, and found that sturdy or single leaves with well-defined shapes made our favorite impressions (parsley, pine, dandelion, clover). We also found that soaking the eggs in the cold dye bath versus boiling them with the dye seemed to keep the dye on the surface of the egg shell, making the colors very vulnerable to rubbing off with handling. I suspect that cooking the egg in the dye bath may help fix the dye to the shell, but I’ll have to experiment with that and see. My mother’s eggs that are cooked with the onion skins have always held the dye better than mine did, hence my theory. In the end, the russet colored egg with the humble parsley leaf print is still my favorite, although that pine needle one is a close second, and I do so love the blue colors…back to “more is more” I guess.

Have you had experience dyeing eggs or other materials such as fibers with natural dyes? Please share any tips or stories in the comments. For all of those who are celebrating in the days ahead, may you have a peaceful and joyous holiday.

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